Social Arts

Social Arts is the application of the arts and creative practices to create new possibilities and transform individuals, groups and systems.

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In new situations, old operating models and solutions no longer work. A renewal requires an ability to unlearn old ways of thinking and doing: courage to adopt novel perspectives and capacity for change.

How do you learn and lead in times of disruption when you cannot rely on the experiences of the past? 

"To really change the outer world we first need to shift the inner place that we operate from. This is done by activating deeper sources of knowing.” –  Otto Scharmer, Senior Lecturer at MIT, Founding Chair of Presencing Institute. Author of Theory U: Leading from the Future As it Emerges

Advanced systems thinking includes the capacity for systems sensing. Because making a system see itself is not good enough. To address the knowing-doing gap we have to make the system sense and see itself. How can you build this capacity at scale? Through state-of-the-art social technologies and social aesthetics-based practice fields. 

Here are two examples of social arts practices. The first one is Social Presencing Theater. The second one is Visual Practice. Both practices depicts not only factual information, but also embody or make visual the deeper essence of processes in systems, opening up a space of “highest possibility”.

Poetry, music and other art forms can also create space for collective healing, a glue transcending space to align and connect human souls. An heartfelt poetical or musical dialogue is a natural way to connect with people of a social reality hitherto unknown to us, and sparking a collective change of behaviors and mindsets. It gives birth to a new narrative with a sense of wholeness. Sometimes, poems, music or other social arts forms are the keys to unlock a movement.

Social Presencing Theater

Social Presencing Theater (SPT) is a body-based social technology developed to enable and facilitate systems change. It is a new social art form that that connects different individuals, teams or communities with their transformational stories, by blending social action research, embodied movement, contemplative practices, intentional silence, generative dialogue, and open space.

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Social Presencing Theater is a social technology developed to enable, and facilitate systems change. It has been developed through a collaboration of MIT Professor Otto Scharmer, and dancer, Arawana Hayashi. 


Visual Practice

We can use a drawing “as a meditative surface”, as a specific tool for resonance — like a ringing bell — to transform our collective attention, and give rise to a new type of collective container, opening space for presencing and generative flow.
Images can suggest multiple interpretations, and that’s intentional, as it leaves it for you to find your own meaning. “Seeing is not about the eyes; it’s about the heart” (Kelvy Bird).
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Digital visual practice that emphasizes systems-learning by applying the power of scribing as a “social art” to help address societal dilemmas, like climate change, human rights, women’s issues, racial inequality, and much more.



Social Arts Applications and Case Studies

Read about Social Arts applications and case studies that brought together members of the scientific and artistic community, and people working in different areas and geographies to reflect, experience and implement transformation work in their contexts.


Can Poetry Heal Collective Trauma?
Social Music: Sparking Change Through Resonance
Social Art Studio Residency
Transforming health care: stories of changemakers across the world

A World Health Organization (WHO) film where storytellers/scriptwriters embody what they were capturing through how they listened; what kinds of questions they asked; and how they prepared themselves and the actors who were engaged to bring the stories to life. This film weaves together stories from individuals and groups in health intentionally leading change.